Jacob

David Seccombe is taking us through a series in Genesis focusing on Jacob.

This series will be looking at who the man Jacob was, and how the nation of Israel was formed.

Each week there will be insight into the way God chose his people and how God’s promises to one nation become the promises to all nations. This series will challenge you to understand more about who God is in an ever changing world.

 

Week 1 – The Man God Mastered

Why are there still Jews, and why is there now a nation, Israel? There are no more Canaanites. Over a thousand years ago Egypt was taken by Arabs. There are no more Edomites or Ammonites or Moabites – or Sumerians or Akkadians or Babylonians or Assyrians or Hittites. Even the Romans have gone and Greece is a pale shadow of what it was. But the Jews, despite holocausts, attempts at genocide, and countless persecutions are still with us. With us? Who are we, I ask, and how long will we endure?

The ultimate answer to the continuance of the Jews must be God. “How odd of God to choose the Jews,” quipped the journalist William Ewer. But thus it is, and their story goes on. And when one asks what means God used for their preservation pride of place must go to a story. It has been said that Christians have doctrines, the Jews have a story. That is not altogether true, for Christians have a story – the same story, in fact: the same story with a different ending.

But our Christian story (unlike Islam’s) is clear that ultimately Israel’s story and ours will have the same ending – their story is part of ours and ours will be part of theirs, and the ending will be the same. Israel’s story and ours has been written by God, and its end will be written by him too. And this is the only story that matters.

What an extraordinary thought! I read it recently and I cannot remember where, but it hit me between the eyes and ever since I have been I have been asking is it true. There are countless stories, of course, but how significant are they? Do they have a future? There is one story unfolding in the world, which is ultimately significant because it has a future that does not end. There is one never-ending story, which all the other stories (yours!), if they are to have a good future, must become a part of. When they do (our story) we can look back and see Israel’s story also as ours.

This is why I am beginning a series of talks this Sunday on Jacob, aka Israel. There are not many characters in the Bible, whose life story is told us: Jacob, Joseph, David, Jesus, Peter and Paul. That is about all. Jacob is the direct ancestor of the Jewish people. His story is complex and intriguing, shattering many of our preconceived ideas about the way God works. Yet it reveals things we would never imagine, things about God’s dealings with the human race that are still woven into our history, past, present and future. Join us as we discover some of our common roots – and destiny – in the story of this most unusual man. You could even learn something about yourself.

David Seccombe

Week 2 – Blessing in the Wilderness

It is uncanny that a book written more than 3000 years ago should have so many links with today. October 31 is a special day for us (a daughter’s birthday) but we also remember a great battle one hundred years ago when, as the day was failing, Australian light horsemen mounted an all or nothing charge, the sheer audacity of which, overcame the Turkish defenses and took the town. “These Australian countrymen had never in all their riding at home ridden a race like this; and all ranks drove in their spurs and charged on Beersheba.” (www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1416703) Not everything the ANZAC’s did ended in defeat; this action on 31 October 1917 was a vital part of General Allenby’s plan to take Palestine from the Turks.

In the Bible Beersheba is the southernmost point of Israel’s “promised land”. Four thousand years ago Isaac was driven here seeking land and rest away from the harassment of the men of Gerar. Every time they settled and found water others would claim it as theirs. When, after yet another move, the servants came with the news that there was water in their freshly-dug well Isaac named the place Beersheba (“Seven Wells”). Like Isaac’s family, the Light Horse were glad to quench their thirst in this same oasis in the midst of the barren and dry Negev Desert.

Genesis 26 brings home to us how difficult life was for this family even as God was showering them with his blessing. It is the first time we hear of God appearing to Isaac. In spite of it being a famine, God commands him not to go to Egypt, where there was always food and water, and reaffirms the promise he made to Abraham that the land would one day belong to his descendants (seed). In chapter 26 Genesis shows us how that blessing begins to work itself out. Despite threats to his safety and his wife’s, God protects. Crops are planted and yield one hundredfold. Isaac becomes wealthy. But blessing arouses envy, and Isaac must move – again and again. (A familiar Jewish story!) I don’t know why they didn’t stay in Rehoboth (“Room”), but at last they found a (semi-) permanent home at Beersheba in the Negev Desert. Despite their hardships, they were a significant force and the king of Gerar thinks it wise to have a treaty with them. The blessing says, “Whoever curses you I will curse,” so it is wise to have a treaty!

This ancient story is part of our Judeo-Christian family history. It is more than history because the God who blessed and protected then is doing it still. Jesus unites us with Abraham’s promised blessing. When we surrender our lives to him we come under God’s protection and blessing. Our lives will be lived in the midst of many troubles: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God,” but faith keeps its eye on the promise and sees the Lord Jesus’ shepherd hand, and blessings all along the way to the great blessing which is coming.

David Seccombe

Week 3 – Finding God

Today we are looking at how Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, met God. Coming into a positive relationship with God is the most important thing that can happen in a person’s life. If we do not know our own Creator, we wander through life without ever connecting with its purpose, and, according to what Jesus taught, will spend eternity in darkness. It is important, therefore, that we know how to find God and live at peace with him.

Jacob’s case was not typical. God spoke to him personally in a dream and set him on the path to eternal life. He does not do that with everyone. Compare the story  of the prison warden in Acts 16. The end of the story is telling: “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.”

How this happened is interesting. First he took charge of some new prisoners, who had been arrested as trouble-makers. Their accusers were angry because they had commanded the spirit to leave a fortune-telling slave girl, and her gift no longer worked. It was causing her owners some financial loss. The thing was public knowledge because this girl had been following Paul around telling bystanders that he was a servant of God announcing the way of salvation. This was true, but it was causing Paul an amount of embarrassment and trouble.

At the order of the magistrates they were flogged and delivered to the prison. The warder locked Paul and his companion up. No attention was given to their wounds. So it was a surprise late at night to hear them singing hymns and encouraging themselves and the other prisoners.

Then there was an earthquake, a shocking experience for anyone, but doubly so for the prison warden when he saw that the doors of the gaol were off their hinges and he assumed his prisoners has all escaped. He was ready to do what any Roman soldier knew he must do: fall on his sword and was only stopped by Paul shouting to him that they were all there.

So there is nothing typical about this story either, at least up until now, though  many people do come to God when in one way or another their world comes tumbling down, and they are faced with ruin. But however the moment may come when we are ready to face up to the ultimate question, it is what happens next which is all-important. The desperate prison warden asks a desperate question: “What must I do to be saved?” It is the answer to this question that I want us to take notice of and never forget: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved – you and your family.” So simple! What happens in life to bring us to the point of taking the question seriously will be different for everyone, but the way to God, and forgiveness, and life , and eternity is the same: believe in Jesus as God’s King (Messiah), and as the Lord of everything (including you). You will be saved, because he is the Savior: the one who came from God to save sinners; who taught, died, rose, was glorified, reigns in heaven, and will soon return to judge us all.

Jacob saw a ladder connecting heaven and earth. In the New Testament we learn that Jesus is that ladder. We come to him by believing him and entrusting ourselves to his care. He promises to hold us through life and death and into eternity. Don’t ever forget it!

David Seccombe

Week 4 – Jacob at Bethel

Last Sunday we looked at Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel. I want to go over some of that to be clear on a few important points.

This is the story of Jacob’s first experience of God: his conversion if you like. The purpose of the Bible is to connect us with God, so Jacob’s encounter is worth pondering.

Jacob’s father and grandfather worshiped Yahweh, the Creator-God, but they lived among worshipers of many other god’s. Jacob must sometimes have asked himself which god is the true God – or are they all just humans groping around for some meaning in life? When God spoke he identified himself, by name (“I am     Yahweh”) and by his relationship to others who knew him (the God of Abraham and Isaac). This is the way most people identify themselves when they meet someone for the first time. We also know God is real because he has revealed himself.

God renewed to Jacob the promise he had made previously to Abraham and Isaac, the promise of a land and descendants, and in Jacob’s case protection for his journey and a safe return to the Promised Land. It will be twenty years until he returns.

God repeats his promise that all the nations of the world will find their blessing through Jacob and his seed. This is what connects us to the story. We know he had Jesus in mind, a special “seed” through whom the blessing would flow. When we connect with Jesus we connect with the God who spoke to Jacob, and to the blessing he promised him.

Jacob dreamt of a staircase with its base on earth and its top in heaven. God was showing him that heaven and earth are connected – but not everywhere. Since Eden the world has been in rebellion against its creator. Canaan was the place where God would establish a “bridgehead” for his campaign to recover his lost world. Israel’s history leads up to Jesus, and from Jesus salvation spreads out to all the world.

People look in many places for a door into heaven or the beyond. Some try the occult, but that is a door into depression and insanity; it is the Devil’s door. Others seek to connect through transcendental meditation, or through ritual – even drugs have been tried. Jesus came from God to broker a new relationship between God and human beings. Heaven and earth are now connected through him. He is “the way, the truth and the life”; no one comes to the Father other than through him.

When we discover this and learn that God does not want to harm, but bless us, we respond by taking him as our God and King, and committing ourselves and all that is ours to him.

David Seccombe

 

 

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